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How US-Iran tensions led to the death of Iranian General

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Tensions between the United States and Iran have escalated dramatically after US President Donald Trump ordered the killing of top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani.

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The attack at Baghdad International Airport also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF).

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei swiftly pledged to take “severe revenge” for Soleimani’s assassination.

Trump and US officials have defended the move, saying it was “self-defense”.

Here’s a look at the key events have led to the current situation:

The US withdraws from Iran nuclear deal 

Trump made good on an election campaign promise, announcing on May 8 that the US was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA).

“I made clear that if the deal could not be fixed, the United States would no longer be a party to the agreement,” Trump said at the time. “The Iran deal is defective at its core.”

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The JCPOA had tightly restricted Iran’s nuclear programme in return for ending sanctions that had severely damaged its economy.

In response, Iran called Trump’s decision “unacceptable” and said it would bypass Washington and negotiate with the deal’s other remaining signatories: France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, and China.

US drone is shot down

On June 20, Iranian forces shot down a US military drone.

Both countries confirmed the incident but offer diverging accounts about the location of the aircraft.

The US said it was flying above international waters, while Iran said the drone was flying in Iranian airspace.

US sanctions on Khamenei’s inner circle

The US on November 4 imposed new sanctions on the inner circle of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, including one of his sons.

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The US Treasury said that the nine people sanctioned included Khamenei’s chief of staff, the head of the judiciary and senior military figures. It said it also blacklisted Iran’s Armed Forces General Staff.

US sanctions on Iran’s information minister

The US on November 22 imposed sanctions on Iran’s communications minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi for his role in “widespread censorship”.

“Iran’s leaders know that a free and open internet exposes their illegitimacy, so they seek to censor internet access to quell anti-regime protests,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

Sanctions on Iran’s biggest airline

On December 11, the US Treasury imposed new sanctions on Iran’s biggest airline and its shipping industry, accusing them of transporting lethal aid to Yemen.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington targeted three general sales agents of Mahan Air over the role the airline has allegedly played in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Also blacklisted was an Iranian shipping network that the US accused of involvement in smuggling aid from Iran to Yemen on behalf of armed groups.

Protesters storm US embassy

On December 31, enraged members and supporters of pro-Iranian paramilitary groups in Iraq broke into the heavily fortified US embassy compound in Baghdad, smashing the main door and setting parts of its perimeter on fire.

Trump blamed Iran for killing the US contractor and the ensuing tensions around the embassy.

“Iran is orchestrating an attack on the US Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible,” he wrote on Twitter.

US assassinates Soleimani

In a predawn air raid in at Iraq’s Baghdad airport on January 3, the US struck and killed Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces, or PMF. But Iran vowed harsh retaliation.

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